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Patient info ends up on eBay

NHS trust hard drives at knock-down prices

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The Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust is trying to find out how one of its computers full of confidential medical information was sold on eBay.

Disposal of the DGoH's computers is carried out under contract to Siemens Medical Solutions, as part of a PFI agreement. Computer Disposals has a sub-contract with Siemens to dispose of obsolete IT. All hard drives that leave the trust via this route should undergo data wiping, which meets the government's standard of being over-written three times.

The confidential data was discovered by researchers working on forensic data recovery methods at Glamorgan University. The university's research is sponsored by BT, which purchases 250 hard drives a year from places such as eBay and regional computer fairs. It then passes these to the university, which attempts to recover data.

The research is designed to raise awareness in organisations of how easy it is to recover sensitive data where poor data wiping processes are used.

The trust said that, together with Siemens, it has carried out an internal investigation into the incident and developed recommendations to prevent data from being left on unwanted hard drives.

"Unfortunately, an investigation into how this particular hard drive has been openly purchased has not been able to identify the route at this stage, and the trust is continuing with its efforts to identify the source, including the possibility of theft," the trust said in a statement to GC News .

They include a change to the contract between the trust and Siemens about responsibility for the disposal of all IT equipment and the purchase of a degausser to ensure that hard drives are wiped before they leave the trust.

The trust board is expected to accept the recommendations when it meets later this month.

This summer, a report from the Information Commissioner's Office highlighted a "horrifying" number of public sector organisations that were guilty of careless breaches of personal information. It received almost 24,000 complaints concerning personal information over the last year.

In one high-profile breach, an online recruitment system for junior doctors revealed highly personal information on application forms, including sexuality and religion.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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